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The 7 Pickleball Tips & Tricks That Took Me From a 3.0 Player to 3.5

by Luke Burton on

Here are 7 Tips that will improve your pickleball game:

1. Drill More Than Your Play
2. Hit With Intention
3. Learn Wall Drills
4. Keep Your Eye on the Ball
5. Use the Right Grip
6. Get Your Body Low
7. Hit High Percentage Shots

1. Drill More Than You Play

Yes, playing games is way more fun than drilling. But you need to practice if you want to improve fast. Most professionals spend roughly 10-20% of their court time playing games and the rest drilling.

When you drill, you get way more reps on hitting a shot than you do in a game. It might take you three games to hit as many 3rd shot drops as it would in just 5 minutes of drilling.

You can make drilling fun by turning them into games. Find ways to make them competitive and keep score with your partner. This also helps to make game-like scenarios that challenge your skills.

2. Hit with Intention

Be decisive about where you are planning to hit your shots. Instead of just reacting and trying to keep the ball in, think about the following things:

  • Which player am I trying to target?
  • What is their weakness (e.g. backhand dink)
  • How can I move the players around the court?
  • What is my highest-percentage shot?

You might need to practice this type of thinking and will take a while to come naturally, but hitting with intention goes a long way towards getting the ball where you want it to go and helps you identify shots you need to practce.

3. Learn Wall Drills

Wall drills are an easy way to practice at home or if you don't have a partner to play with. Find a wall at your home or local courts and tape a line 34-36” high.

Start by hitting backhand volleys against the wall, focusing on hitting the ball right in the center sweet spot of the paddle with a consistent cadence. Next, switch to your forehands. This sounds easy but you'll be surprised at how tough this can be.

4. Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Focus on where the ball hits the paddle at the point of contact. Many players use their peripheral vision when making contact which often leads to errors from not hitting cleanly in the center of the paddle.

The center of the pickleball paddle is called the 'sweet spot' and provides control to your hits as well as 'pop'. This is because it is the softest part of the paddle and creates a trampoline effect when you hit it. If you lose sight of the ball when hitting, you will likely miss the sweet spot and hit a dead ball or mis-hit from catching it close to the edge or throat of the paddle.

5. Use the Right Grip

Most players use the 'continental' grip, sometimes called the 'handshake grip'. This provides stability and maneuverability for most pickleball shots. To get this grip, hold the paddle out with your non-dominant hand and shake hands with the paddle. You can also imagine grabbing it the same way you would a hammer.

6. Get Your Body Low

Like most sports, you want to stand in an athletic stance. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees with a slight bend. Pickleball requires fast reaction times and standing straight up will slow you down considerably.

When dinking, you want to get into a squat position and really lean into the kitchen to try and volley balls our of the air rather than letting them bounce.

If you hit a ball too high, and your opponents are going for an overhead - you'll want to take one full step backward and get your paddle and body as low as possible to defend shots close to your feet.

7. Hit High Percentage Shots

Pickleball is a game of patience and consistency, so you should only hit shots you can comfortably make 80% of the time. It may be tempting to go for a highlight reel when playing the game but most errors come from people hitting shots they think they can make vs ones they know they can make.

Even the pros won't attempt certain shots during a match unless they have a very high success rate when drilling. A 3.0 player can beat a 3.5 player by making better decisions and being more consistent alone.

Do you want to learn more?
Check out the Advanced Double’s Strategy on The Dink

Looking for more tips and tricks for fast improvement?

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Luke Burton

Luke Burton

Luke is the Chief Growth Officer at The Dink as well as the producer for the pickleball podcast Tennis Sucks. He picked up pickleball in 2020 and now plays competitively in the state.

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